A Comparison between Calvinism’s Compatible View of Moral Freedom and Extensivism’s Libertarian Freedom
In order to understand the actual contrast between Calvinism’s view of the nature of God, His sovereign rule over His creation, and His salvation plan, with that of Extensivism’s view of the same, one must understand the two position’s vastly different views of what it means for man to be free to choose and be responsible for his choices.
I use the term Extensivism in this article as a general term that encompasses various orthodox perspectives that believe God truly desires for every person to be saved. This desire of God is evidenced by His extensive salvational love and provision for all (John 3:16; John 2:2). Extensivism stands in contrast to Calvinism’s exclusive perspective which limits salvation to only the unconditional elect. Continue reading →
I use the term Extensivism to encapsulate my soteriological (salvational) understanding. I gave considerable thought in choosing the term. Although only used by me (hence, the need to continuously define for others), it does seem to be free of negative connotations and appears to me to be a suitable parallel for discussing soteriology within this Calvinist/non-Calvinist theological milieu in which I live. That is, consistent Calvinism is soteriologically exclusive (limited salvific love, limited unconditional election, limited efficacious call, limited atonement, etc.); whereas, we who disagree with that exclusive approach do so because we believe the Scripture teaches an extensive soteriology. The term also permits me to avoid spending time defending the nuances of other non-Calvinist perspectives with whom I agree on many points. Continue reading →
I was a Calvinist for over thirty-three years and was unabashedly so for the first twenty. I spent the last thirteen years questioning and evaluating the harmony between Calvinism and Scripture and only doffed the label Calvinist in the final months of that journey.
A respondent to one of my blogs on SBC Today commented on this journey, and I thought I would share my reply here in order to briefly touch upon my departure from Calvinism.
The blogger said, “Your personal testimony is that, a study of Sola Scriptura is what lead you out of the Calvinism to which you held for decades.” Continue reading →
While many don the designation Calvinist because they have endeavored to learn all the aspects of Calvinism and are thereby convinced that it provides the most cogent, comprehensive, and consistent grid through which to understand Scripture, others readily adopt the appellation less nobly.
Of this latter variety, it seems to me that many assume the title “Calvinist” because they like certain components of Calvinism, which they are led to believe are unique to Calvinism. Such conclusions may arise from their exposure to the claims of some Calvinists to that effect, the inadequacy of explanations or responses of those who reject Calvinism, or even from their own subjective assumptions. Such beliefs are exampled by God’s sovereignty, the preeminence of God’s glory, or the total depravity of fallen man. Continue reading →
John Calvin is unabashed in his defense of his views and says, “Many professing a desire to defend the Deity from an invidious charge admit the doctrine of election, but deny that any one is reprobated….This they do ignorantly, and childishly, since there could be no election without this opposite reprobation. God is said to set apart those whom he adopts for salvation. It were most absurd to say, that he admits others fortuitously, or that they by their industry acquire what election alone confers on a few. Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children” Continue reading →
Calvinists take solace in the claim that they believe salvation is totally a work of God (unconditional election, man’s passiveness until selective regeneration, regeneration prompting faith, etc.,), while oftentimes either implying or explicitly accusing those who make salvation conditioned upon man exercising faith (exercising faith in response to hearing the gospel prior to regeneration or forgiveness) as being less than a total work of God or stealing some of God’s glory in the work of salvation. According to Calvinists, this conditional nature of salvation (as opposed to monergism and man’s total passiveness prior to regeneration) is supposed to emanate from, at best, a lesser view of salvation by grace and God’s sovereignty, which results in some sort of communal glory or credit between man and God for one’s salvation. Fortunately, Calvinism’s final conclusion is reasoned from Calvinism rather than Scripture. Continue reading →
John Piper said, “The book of life…represents God’s free and unconditional election…. In the New Testament the book of life is synonymous with the list of those who are elect and predestined for eternal life.” John Calvin said, “Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children.” (italics added) Continue reading →
Millard Erickson holds to a compatibilist view of moral freedom, as do virtually all Calvinists. Compatibilism is the perspective that determinism and moral freedom are compatible; hence, the name. To wit, man makes a free choice when he chooses according to his greatest desire; however, what is often overlooked is that the desire from which he freely chooses is the product of inviolable determinative antecedents. Thus, man does not have the ability, given the same past, to make a different choice than he does in fact make at any given moral moment; accordingly, man’s free choice is not just certain, but it is in fact necessary given one’s past. Continue reading →
Calvinists often argue that defending man as possessing libertarian free will (giving man a true choice between walking with God or not walking with Him and therefore the outcomes being conditional) not only places man’s salvation in his own hands, but it also creates uncertainties that would mean that God would not know everything since (as the argument goes) one cannot know an uncertainty for certain. On the other hand, the Calvinist idea is that all actions are predetermined by God either through decrees, compatibilism, or both and this makes everything certain and therefore knowable. This understanding makes the theological reality of libertarian free will an impossibility in Calvinism. Fortunately, the impossibility is merely a Calvinistic impossibility rather than an actual one.
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To be a consistent Calvinist, a person must believe that the Bible teaches God limits His redemptive love toward His creation and that limited love is more reflective of God being the sum of perfect love than God extending His salvational love to all of His creation.
Of course, the perennial problem with the Calvinist’s perspective is the explicit claims of Scripture to the contrary. The encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus provides an example of God’s universal salvational love and sets the context for probably the most well-known and beloved verse in the Scripture, which explicitly declares God’s universal redemptive love for all of His creation (John 3:16).
I intend to set the context by briefly summarizing vss. 1-13. Then I will note some observations drawn from vss. 14-15. The illustration of vss. 14-15 serves a twofold purpose; first, it provides illumination for properly understanding some of the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus in vss. 1-13; second, it serves as Jesus’s chosen introductory and illuminative illustration for vss. 16-21. Continue reading →